Monday, June 21, 2010

Which way are you facing?

In the film, "Please Give," Rebecca and her boyfriend Eugene take their grandmothers from their Mahnattan homes to the Adirondack mountains of upstate New York to see the changing leaves. By all accounts, the leaves are stunning this season.

After a few hours on the road, they find a spot and pull over. Everyone piles out of the car, including the two hobbling grandmothers, to look at the trees.

Rebecca, Eugene, and his grandmother stand by the roadside, in silence, enraptured by the mountains and the trees--a rainbow of reds, golds, yellows, and greens.

Meanwhile, Rebecca's grandmother is turned in the opposite direction, looking at a patch of trees whose skinny limbs stretch forth empty and gray. It looks like winter, not autumn. But it's all the woman can see.

Or will allow herself to see. Rebecca's grandmother is alone and bitter. Her only child, a daughter, had killed herself when Rebecca and her sister were young, and the gradmother reared the girls herself.

This tragic loss possessed the woman and robbed her of a life of joy, love, and beauty.

Rebecca's grandmother focuses only on death, her daughter's and her own one day soon. It's all she sees.

In the metaphor of the film, she looks on the empty trees, which presage the coming winter, not on the vivid fall colors of an upstate autumn.

In life, we're looking either toward the barren or the beautiful, toward the tragic and painful or the good and redemptive, toward death or life. We're either looking toward Christ, who is life, or away from him.

And the way we're facing makes all the difference in what our lives will be.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It's time to wash the oil off our hands

President Obama didn't say it in his speech last night, but he should have:

We all have oil on our hands.

All of us who drive vehicles, fly on airplanes, use petroleum-based produces are responsible for the catastrophic oil leak and spread in the Gulf of Mexico, and the consequent environmental and economic damage, because we're all dependent on seemingly unlimited and relatively cheap oil.

Because we're responsible for the devastation of the gulf, if only indirectly, we're also responsible for the prevention of future disasters. We must become more faithful in our stewardship of creation and insist upon greater supervision of and, where warranted, punishment of corporations that act so cavalierly with respect to our environment.

Not all damage can be contained or repaired. Once an oil-feathered pelican dies, it stays dead.

We also must take other action, including: supporting a gas tax, the revenue from which will help fund research into and development of alternative, clean forms of energy; reducing our driving, hopping on bicycles instead of into the front seats of our cars to run those errands; and trading in our monster SUVs for energy-efficient vehicles. Both Penny and I enjoy our hybrid cars, especially the savings on gas and the satisfaction of knowing we're doing a small part to care for creation.

And we must pressure our elected officials, urging them to shift funds from road and highway repair, improvement, and expansion to the laying of light rails for trains (Kansas City, I'm told, is doing just this; St. Louis already has.); expanding bus service, including to outlying areas, and building more bike lanes and trails.

No, the president didn't say it in his 18-minute address to the nation last night, but he should have said it:

We all have oil on our hands, and it's time we wash it off by acting in new, bold ,and even sacrificial ways for the preservation of God's gift of creation.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

What if?

Reading Matthew 14.13-21 during Morning Prayer today, I wondered:

What if the Kingdom of God that Jesus inaugurates is a radically new consciousness and experience?

Jesus' life and ministry reveal this kingdom, which is unlike any of the world's kingdoms.

Today, in the feeding of the multitude, he shows that this new consciousness and experience are not about scarcity, but about plenitude. Jesus takes virtually nothing--just a small bit of food--and turns it into a feast, with ample leftovers.

This feeding miracle reveals a larger and deeper reality, one that is hitherto hidden and which is discovered only by those who live that life that Jesus lives as God's son.

We enter this new kingdom consciousness and experience only by faith; and in doing so, we find what's always been there: the fullness of life, God's gift to us.

By faith alone, what if becomes what is.